Monday, March 18, 2013

Anand Ashram (1977)

I pushed back watching this Shakti Samanta movie for quite some time, expecting it to be one of those moralistic tale laced with melodrama and strung together by a few good songs. Another big reason for my lack of enthusiasm was that this movie, unlike most other Shakti Samanta movies of that time, does not star Rajesh Khanna, and instead features Uttam Kumar, an actor I am not particularly fond of. As it turned out, as I finally got around to watching it, I was somewhat right about my pre-conceived notions. But having said that, the movie pleasantly surprised me on many counts, and in fact turned out to be quite a good watch. Also, as the narrative unfolded and moved towards the climax, similarities between its story and that of big ticket Karan Johar magnum opus Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham became quite apparent, which were rather interesting to discern. The coincidence that Rakesh Roshan plays the role that would be parallel to what his son Hrithik Roshan performs in the modern day magnum opus, was what triggered the connection in my mind.

A young doctor marries his childhood companion without his father’s consent. The father, a rich and respected landlord with a legacy he is very proud of, is terribly disappointed by his son’s decision to marry a girl from a different religious background. The confrontation leads to the son abandoning his father’s house and giving up on all his inherited wealth. He, along with his wife, then proceeds to fulfil his life’s objective of providing medical services to the underprivileged villages, which lack healthcare infrastructure. A chance encounter with a wannabe do-gooder enables him to open a village dispensary, which he starts to run with his wife supporting him wholeheartedly. Then in a curious turn of fate, his allegiance to the oath of selfless service is put to test. He passes the test but suffers a great personal loss when he is unable to be at his wife’s side as she is delivering their first child. The story from there briskly changes character and soon takes a time leap. With the drama set, the next part is quite entertaining to watch.

Despite the serious theme, a feel-good factor is maintained throughout, thanks to the well defined characters essayed by Ashok Kumar, Utpal Dutt, and Asit Sen. In the second part of the movie the romance angle between Rakesh Roshan and Moushumi Chatterjee also lightens the proceedings. Towards the end, the culmination too is convincing and ties up the drama satisfactorily.

It would not be completely off the mark to say that the basic skeletal of Anand Ashram and K3G is alike. What is most different is the objective and treatment. While Anand Ashram has the theme of selfless service to humanity as its backbone, K3G has no such pretentions and was quite unequivocal in its fidelity to the candyfloss. As a result the characters in the older film are less caricaturish and have more shades to their personalities. And that is strength of Anand Ashram as a more ‘moving’ motion picture. The lead hero, Uttam Kumar, is not very convincing in the initial portions of the story where he plays the rebel lover lip-syncing to songs and romancing a stunning beauty like Sharmila Tagore. But in the later part of the movie he appears in a bearded look and is generally more assured. But Ashok Kumar as the ‘kabhi garam kabhi naram’ granddad (and dad) gives the most heart-warming performance from the lot.

Almost all the songs are nice and don’t really act as speed-breakers. ‘Sara pyaar tumhara’ and ‘Rahee naye naye’ and the most melodious and must have been quite popular in their time.

Parting Note: Anand Ashram has a good original story to tell in a breezy run-time. Also, the message it propagates is universal and quite relevant even in the current times.